Pac-10 Expansion Might Be Bad News

With all the talk about the Pac-10 expanding to 12 teams, I think there are two unavoidable facts to consider.

— Expansion is inevitable. Out of BYU, Utah, Boise State and Colorado, I’m guessing two of them will join the Pac-10 in the next several years. I don’t know how realistic Colorado is; the Big 12 would fight awfully hard to retain the Denver market, which is exactly why the Pac-10 should pursue the Buffaloes. And Colorado would fit in perfectly with the Pac-10’s academic standards.

Believe or not, academics will be a big factor in any Pac-10 expansion. From what I’ve heard over the years, that’s why San Diego State and Fresno State will not be considered. No offense to anybody who went to those schools, but in California the “state” schools are not as academically rigid as the UC schools like Cal and UCLA.

BYU would be an obvious choice because it would fit academically, it would carry the Salt Lake City market, and it would bring an inherent national following with it. Utah also would fit academically and would carry the Salt Lake market, but I’m guessing the Pac-10 would prefer to avoid adding both BYU and Utah because it doesn’t need two new schools from the same market.

— Here’s the important part as far as our local schools are concerned: Any expansion would be troublesome for the Northwest teams. Washington, Washington State, Oregon and Oregon State all rely heavily on recruits from California, and dividing the conference into two divisions would be damaging in this regard.

Let’s say Colorado and BYU join the league. That would make for a Northern Division of the Northwest schools and the new schools. Teams would play a round-robin against the schools in their division, and probably three games against the other division. Under that scenario, Washington would visit, say, USC once every four years.

I think that might hurt recruiting. If you’re after a kid from Los Angeles, he would play one game in four years at USC and one at UCLA. Under the current setup, he plays a total of four games down there in front of friends and family. I don’t know what impact that would have on recruiting, but it couldn’t help.

The danger is that the Pac-10 would become like the Big 12, where the South Division is dominant. This year, teams in the South went 13-5 against the North; last year they went 15-3. In the Big 12, the North Division is completely irrelevant because the bulk of the talent comes from Texas. The same thing could happen in the Pac-10.

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